Women in Istanbul took to the streets on Saturday to protest Turkish President Erdogan’s decision to withdraw from the Istanbul Convention, effective July 1. Conservatives in Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AK Party) claim the convention actually encourages violence by undermining Turkey’s traditional family structures. Protesters gathered on the streets of Istanbul on Saturday to voice their anger. Melek Ondas of the Women's Council association was quoted by AFP as saying that women came from 70 provinces to the rally in Istanbul.
"We believe in the strength of our organizations. And whether the decision is overturned or not, we will continue our struggle in every way possible," Ondas told AFP.
The convention targets violence against women and domestic violence. The convention requires signatory states to investigate allegations of violence and prosecute those responsible. Additionally, signatories agree to promote gender equality through legislation and education. Turkey was the convention’s first signatory in 2011, lending it the name of its commercial capital. Since then the convention has been signed by 45 countries, along with the European Union.
In Turkey, at least 300 women were murdered in Turkey last year. In May alone, 17 cases of confirmed femicides were reported and another 20 suspected cases were reported.
“These murders often go unpunished,” said Marc Pierini, a visiting scholar from Carnegie Europe. This is why the Istanbul Convention was such a “crucial reassurance” for Turkish women.